EJC COVID-19 cases rise, vaccinations lagging

Mike Genet

New COVID-19 cases inched higher again in Eastern Jackson County over the past week, and the area’s vaccination rate lags a bit behind the state averages.  

According to the Jackson County Health Department, which covers the county outside Kansas City, the rolling 14-day positive test percentage in Eastern Jackson remained at 6.6 percent as of Sunday, up from 5.7 percent two weeks ago after dropping as low as 3.3 percent earlier in the spring. At the end of January, the rolling positive test percentage in EJC was at 25 percent.  

The rolling seven-day average of new cases again rose, from 38 and 40 the previous two weeks to 47 as of Sunday. Four weeks ago, that average was 24. As of Sunday, the county Health Department had confirmed 31,412 (up 128 from last week) and 468 deaths (three more this week) across Eastern Jackson County since the pandemic began. The county’s dashboard includes Independence.  

The department said it counted more than 6,200 new tests over the past week, about 300 more than last week’s total. The CDC’s goal for the agency is about 500 tests per day.  

According to the Mid-America Regional Council’s dashboard, 29.1 percent of the population in Jackson County outside of Kansas City has been fully vaccinated, with 34.8 percent having at least started the vaccine regimen – a couple percentage points greater than the metro area averages. Statewide, 31 percent in Missouri have completed the vaccine regimen. Percentages are based on the entire population – and those under 16 are not yet eligible for the for the vaccine. 

Steve Stites, chief medical officer of the University of Kansas Health System, said he’s a “little nervous” about places opening up fully and more frequently, given that vaccinations have slowed of late and health officials still battle some vaccine hesitancy.  

“It’s important to remember, COVID-19 continues to take a toll, and it’s better to be safe than sick,” Stites said during a media briefing Monday morning, adding that while someone can still contract COVID-19 after vaccination, severe infections plummet for those people. “The more people we get vaccinated, the safer it makes it for everyone.” 

The Kansas City Health Department had confirmed 38,849 cases and 566 deaths since the pandemic began, as of Friday morning – nearly 300 additional cases and one additional death over the previous week. According to the department, 28.8 percent of the city’s population has been fully vaccinated as of Thursday.  

The nine-county metro area had more than 171,602 confirmed cases and 2,407 COVID-related deaths as of Sunday, according to MARC’s dashboard, an increase of more 1,100 cases and 17 deaths from the previous week.  

According to MARC’s dashboard, the seven-day average of new hospitalizations in the nine-county metro area was at 60 through Friday, down from 68 the previous week and continuing a multi-week trend of slightly back-and-forth. That average stood at about 180 at the beginning of the year.  

Available hospital beds in the metro remained at 38.5 percent overall and rose slightly from 34 to 37 percent for ICU beds, with COVID-19 patients accounting for about 3.1 percent and 7.46 percent of those figures, respectively. COVID-19 patients in ICU beds rose two percentage points from the previous week. 

Hospitalization data are based on a seven-day rolling average.